Celebrating the U.S. launch of the new Zune digital media player and music service, Microsoft Corp. has worked with a number of cutting-edge artists to stage free concerts in public parks and plazas in urban centers across the country. Today at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle at the first of these Zune concerts, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates took the stage to share his excitement for this next step Microsoft is taking in music and entertainment.
Gates outlined the Zune vision to create new ways for people to connect, discover and share music and entertainment experiences. He was joined onstage by John Richards, morning show host of popular community radio station KEXP, to showcase the new Zune-to-Zune wireless sharing feature. Richards wirelessly sent the inaugural song to Gates, who then surprised the crowd by giving away his Zune device to a member of the audience. Building on the “Hello from Seattle” greeting printed on the back of every Zune device, Richards created a playlist to celebrate Seattle music in honor of the Zune launch. The complete KEXP “Hello from Seattle” playlist will be available on Zune Marketplace for consumers to download.
“We wanted to bring Zune to life with a celebration of live music, shared between artists and fans across the country, and really make today all about embracing the social aspect of music,” said Bryan Lee, corporate vice president of the Entertainment Busines at Microsoft. “Zune is all about changing the game to make music more social, and at launch we are just scratching the surface of how wireless technology is going to enable social interaction in the future.”
The Seattle launch concert, which featured New York-based, three-piece rock band The Secret Machines, drew crowds to the heart of downtown Seattle and kicked off the first of six shows to take place across the country. Celebrating the style and energy of local music scenes in Atlanta, Chicago and Miami, T.I., Lupe Fiasco and Richie Spice with Morgan Heritage will also play free public concerts throughout the afternoon and evening. Today’s celebration culminates with performances in New York and Los Angeles where hundreds of lucky fans will get to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Queens of the Stone Age at intimate venues. Post-show musings, images and video will be available at http://www.zune.net beginning this evening.
Working closely with industry partners, Zune is exploring new models for distributing and promoting music that benefit the artists as well as consumers. Through managed wireless sharing, Zune empowers consumers to promote and sample select tracks, in turn increasing exposure for artists. Zune logs the music that people have shared, making it easy to purchase their favorite songs the next time they connect their device to their computer.
“Music has always been experienced in a community, and through Zune, Microsoft is building a robust and unique digital music community platform that enables consumers to share, sample and download their favorite music,” said Alex Zubillaga, executive vice president of Digital Strategy and Business Development at Warner Music Group. “Warner Music commends Microsoft on the launch of the Zune digital media player and Zune music store, and is proud to be a content partner of this important addition to the dynamic and growing digital music space.”
Staffed by a team of music writers and editorial music programmers, Zune Marketplace helps customers discover and purchase new music and uncover old favorites. Zune Marketplace will feature music from major and independent labels and music publishers, including Artemis/V2 Records, BMG Music Publishing, Digital Music Group Inc., EMI Music, EMI Music Publishing, Independent Online Distribution Alliance (IODA), peermusic.com Inc., Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Sub Pop Records, SuperEgo Records, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Warner/Chappell Music and many more. In addition, Zune Marketplace is working with leading editorial providers XLR8R, The FADER, and NME.
On the Shelves
Retailing for $249.99, the Zune device will be available at nearly 30,000 U.S. retailers tomorrow — more outlets than any other Microsoft product. Available in black, brown and white, the 30GB Zune digital media player will come equipped with wireless functionality for Zune-to-Zune sharing of select music, pictures and home recordings; a bright, 3-inch LCD video screen that works in portrait or landscape mode to display pictures and videos; and a built-in FM tuner. The Zune player was designed to work seamlessly with the Zune software and Zune Marketplace music service, giving consumers an easy way to find, manage and enjoy their music, pictures and video. As new features become available, Zune owners will be able to update the software on their existing device.